Potential for Olympics-Related Zika Outbreak Is Small

With the Rio Olympics rapidly approaching, the world is focused not just on the sporting events planned, but on the Zika epidemic which has stolen a bit of the spotlight. Spread by mosquitos, the Zika virus has little effect on the average person. But it has shown to result in serious brain damage resulting from microcephaly in newborns whose mothers contracted the virus while pregnant. To further complicate matters, Zika can be transmitted through sexual contact. The result is a very nervous look toward the 2016 Summer Olympic Games.

The CDC recently released a report on the kind of global outbreak that might occur as a result of the games that would not have otherwise occurred. In this regard, it turns out that only four countries might be affected by the Zika virus.

From AP News:

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimated that 19 countries that currently do not have Zika have the right conditions for outbreaks if it is imported by people returning from the Olympics. But in only four of the 19 countries is the issue considered substantial: Yemen, at the southern tip of the Arabian peninsula, and Chad, Djibouti and Eritrea in Africa.

CDC researchers made their predictions based on a range of factors, including air travel patterns between Brazil and other countries and the presence of a tropical mosquito that is the main way Zika spreads to people.

The countries at highest risk almost never have anyone traveling to outbreak countries, which is why there is cause for concern. Even the small number of athletes and coaches who will be in Brazil from these nations will be a big jump from the normal number of travelers, potentially resulting in an outbreak.

Several athletes have expressed concern over Zika and plan to take extra precautions to remain healthy while in Rio. But others have opted to avoid the Olympics this year altogether. Among those who have cited Zika as their reason for abstaining are American cyclist Tejay van Garderen, whose wife is currently pregnant, and seven of the world’s top golfers, including Jason Day, Adam Scott, Louis Oosthuizen, Charl Schwartzel, Rory McIlroy, Graeme McDowell and Vijay Singh. Basketball stars Stephen Curry and LeBron James have also chosen to stay home, but both have cited other reasons for doing so.